Tuesday, July 09, 2013

To Hell You Ride Issue #2

As was the case in the inaugural chapter, To Hell You Ride #2 by Henriksen, Maddrey and Mandrake depicts its intriguing tale across multiple time periods.  One portion of the tale is set in the Colorado Mountains in 1974, and involves a Native American man named Six George who takes his own life…at the emotional expense of his son’s. 

Another track in the story is set in “Present Day” as that son, now grown-up, realizes he has been living in the equivalent of an “emotional coma.”  We also get hints of his capacity to connect with others -- though still buried -- through the presence of a new character named Mary.

Additionally, the authors depict another time track in this issue: a facet of the tale set in Vietnam during the year 1969, at the height of the war.  This latter flashback grants Lance Henriksen’s character -- the decent and honorable Jim Shipps -- more exposure than he has had in the story thus far. 

Finally, we get a macabre interlude -- one worthy of an X-Files prologue -- set on the ski slopes.  A skier undergoes a frightening, inexplicable, and gory transformation…

As we saw in the first issue, To Hell You Ride boasts an extremely powerful authorial voice, both in terms of words and trenchant imagery.  That trademark facet continues here, and some of the lyrical words -- especially when coupled with haunting images -- again prove impossible to forget.  “Bullets don’t have eyes.  They don’t know who they kill,” for instance.  The psychic punch of those words is considerable when matched with the accompanying art. 

Perhaps more on-point in terms of the overall story arc, there’s a wonderful passage later in the book that discusses the modern, morally-bankrupt culture which de-values the land, and which measures that culture against what it could be.  

That passage reads: “We speak when we should be silent.  We overlook nature, craving noise and activity, distractions and illusive forms of intimacy.  We act like we control everything.” 

These words lead into the grotesque interlude with the skier, and the most overtly horrific imagery we’ve encountered thus far in terms of the wider tale.  This is a great sequence in the book, primarily because the words concern the specific skier (and his attempt to control nature), and can be interpreted on a wider scale, about our culture as a whole.

I also noticed in Issue #2 that one particular term repeats at least three times: the word “contamination.” 

To be contaminated is to be soiled by something, to be rendered impure by it.  Contamination might also be deemed “absorption” of some quality that is negative.  The word, if memory serves, also appears in at least two different time periods in this issue of To Hell You Ride.  I must assume then that “contamination” is a key pillar of the larger narrative or theme.

In Issue #1, we learned about a universe of messages ignored, and the importance of being open to messages…whatever their form.  Issue #2, by contrast, veritably obsesses on this notion of contamination.  It could be contamination of the body or physical form (in relation to Six George and the unlucky skier), and it could also be the contamination of the land itself by the “new miners,” the decadent consumers and vacationers who descend upon Mother Nature with the express permission of a loathsome new character, the obese, avaricious (and constantly perspiring…) Mayor Cubby Boyers. 

Or, perhaps, we are sensing the tip of a deeper linkage here: how contamination of the land leads to contamination of the spirit, and of the culture.

At this point, To Hell Your Ride’s ultimate direction is still ominously and commendably opaque, yet rife with “messages” of the direction it may ultimately take.  But the shift this month to an obsession on “contamination” suggests that dark times and dark happenings are ahead. 

What I continue to enjoy most about To Hell You Ride is its powerful and rich voice, reflected in word and art, and its sprawling didactic tapestry, a tapestry whose strands inch closer together with each interlocking piece of the puzzle.

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